We are in a global environmental crisis.
Jewish tradition compels us to respond.
What is teshuva?
Teshuva or “return” is a Jewish practice of turning inward and reflecting on the transgressions we make as human beings while acknowledging that what was done in the past does not have to be repeated in our future. The practice of teshuva offers us an opportunity to face our negative actions and create a new path forward.
Traditionally, we practice teshuva from the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul through the last day of Sukkot reflecting on how we can strive to be our best selves in the coming year. But Elul is not the only time we can embrace this practice. We invite you to continue your journey of teshuva throughout 5780.
What is environmental teshuva?
Environmental teshuva is the outward manifestation of our commitment to doing better for the planet. As you examine your individual impact on the planet, consider:
- How do you relate to the planet or the climate crisis? What inspires you from the natural world?
- Which of your behaviors do you know are less than ideal? Consider the implications of your diet and transportation habits.
- What are one or two areas in which you will commit to do better?
In August 2019, Hazon had four video billboards displayed in Times Square. We debuted the message “5780: The Year of Environmental Teshuva.” Watch the video. We invite you to join us.
We Are the Weather Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast
by Jonathan Safran Foer
We enthusiastically encourage you to read We Are the Weather and share it with your friends, families, and communities. It is a superb, readable, and very Jewish explication of how, why and in what ways our food choices matter. Hazon created a discussion guide for Jewish communities to accompany the book, which you can download for free here.
If you’re interested in hosting a book group or other program related to We Are the Weather, or anything at the intersection of Judaism, food, and climate, contact Becky O’Brien, Hazon’s Director of Food & Climate, firstname.lastname@example.org. And don’t forget to download our free WATW Discussion Guide for Jewish Communities.Download Our Discussion Guide
Earth Challenge 5780
A project of Jewish Emergent Network
We must respond to the climate crisis by establishing new spiritual, social and consumer norms. Rabbis and organizers in Jewish Emergent Network have created a series of simple challenges to help us shift one habit at a time so that we can move effectively and collectively toward systemic change. Join us! #Earth5780
This month our focus is Compost for healthy soils and for the planet.
Torah: Compost is increasingly recognized as a simple but profound way to have an impact on our planet. It is holy not only because we give back to our earth what we got– with gratitude, humility and strategic wisdom– but also because it is the very metaphor for how to better live our personal and public lives. To compost is as real as the eternal invitation for Tikkun Olam can ever be: We are instructed to literally lift up the scraps of our existence, raise the sparks of repair and recharge reality from each fragment that becomes, again, the greater whole.
Science: Food waste and yard trimmings make up nearly one third of the waste incinerated or landfilled in the US each year. Composting is a powerful tool for slowing climate change, but only about 6% of food waste in America is composted today. When organic materials are landfilled, they decompose anaerobically (without air), generating large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent that carbon dioxide. Composting reduces methane production, and it helps sequester carbon by returning food to the ground in the form of healthy soil. Community or at-home composting prevents our organic waste from being transported long distances, and compost can replace harmful chemical fertilizers, reducing run-off pollution and soil erosion while contributing to healthy ecosystems.
Challenge: This month, start from where you are and take a leap towards more composting at home and in your neighborhood by picking at least one of these actions:
- Stop before you drop… food into the trash. Place a bin beside your kitchen sink, and get started. Find out what you can compost through your city, and make sure you’re doing as much as you possibly can. (Did you know that in Los Angeles, uncooked fruits and vegetables can go in the green bin?) Santa Monica and Culver City are way ahead. They allow all food waste, compostable products and food-soiled paper.
- Ready to level-up? Learn about your home composting options, and attend a workshop to see how you can transform your food waste into rich, healthy soil for your garden. (Hint: There’s an IKAR composting workshop on Sunday, January 26.)
- Been composting for years? Explore ways to expand composting in your neighborhood. Start a conversation about community composting, or share your composting practice with at least one friend or neighbor.
What is JTree?
Hazon is proud to host the US site for JTree. JTree is an emerging international effort of Jewish organizations to mobilize Jewish people and Jewish communities around the world to plant trees as a response to the global climate crisis.
Join the Jewish Climate Coalition
What is the Jewish Climate Coalition?
- The Jewish Climate Coalition was formed by Hazon, The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Jewish Climate Action Network NYC, and The Jewish Theological Seminary of America about three weeks before the Global Climate Strike – it came out of a letter that was aimed at getting other Jewish organizations to sign on
- To date we have over 30 organizations signed up
- The current purpose of the group is to mobilize the Jewish community around the Global Climate Strike
- After the strike, the goal is to call a meeting for member organizations to join, and decide what the fate of this coalition will be. The Global Climate Strike, which is very much ground-up, has coincided (we believe) with a greater desire in the Jewish community to step up. We’ve sent out materials to rabbis asking them to give sermons on “Environmental Teshuva” and it’s clear that a growing number are planning to do so
Become a member organization and help us help our planet and our children’s planet!Join the Jewish Climate Coalition
- Hazon (steering committee)
- Jewish Climate Action Network NYC (steering committee)
- The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (steering committee)
- The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan (steering committee)
- Ansche Chesed
- Aytzim: Ecological Judaism
- Based in Harlem
- B’nai Jeshurun
- Central Synagogue
- Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
- Congregation Habonim
- Educational Alliance’s Manny Cantor Center
- Fort Tryon Jewish Center
- Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition
- Jewish Veg
- Kehillat Harlem
- North American Climate, Conservation and Environment
- Park Avenue Synagogue
- Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
- Repair the World Harlem
- Riverdale YM-YWHA
- SAJ – Judaism That Stand for All
- Sid Jacobson JCC
- Society for Humanistic Judaism
- Stephen Wise Free Synagogue
- Torah Trumps Hate
- Town & Village Synagogue
- UJA-Federation of New York
- Union for Reform Judaism
- United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
- Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
1) Eat a plant-rich diet.
Commit to eating less meat – red meat, poultry, and seafood – as well as less dairy and eggs. The Worldwatch Institute’s research indicates that animal agriculture is responsible for at least 51% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Everyone is starting from a different place, so “less” is different for everyone. Any amount of reduction is a step in the right direction.
2) Waste less food.
Buy only what you need. Eat leftovers. Create an “eat me first” section in your fridge for food that’s running out of time. “Best by,” “sell by,” and other dates are not expiration dates; trust your senses to tell you whether food is still safe to eat. 50% of produce in the US is never consumed and globally, “a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin. The food we waste is responsible for roughly 8 percent of global emissions.” (from Project Drawdown)
3) Get to know and buy from local farmers.
Give local farmers your money (in exchange, of course, for delicious food)! Sukkot is the harvest festival. Invite your favorite farmer into your sukkah for a meal and ask him/her how the harvest is going. Don’t know a farmer? Go to a local farmers market or farm stand and introduce yourself. And then, support these hardworking people by spending some of your food budget with them.
4) Reduce packaging, especially plastic.
Pay attention to how your food is packaged and aim for less packaging overall and for better packaging. Avoid plastics, especially single-use. By 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish! Buy in bulk. Bring your own reusable bags when you go shopping – small ones for bulk products and produce, and large ones for all the groceries. Support companies that strive to reduce the amount of packaging they use and incorporate recycled content into their packaging.
Sermons and Divrei Torah
Hazon has collected close to 30 sermons and d’vrei Torah that focus on Environmental Teshuva. Take a moment to explore the ways that Jewish clergy and spiritual leaders across the country have engaged with Environmental Teshuva this holiday season. View the full list on our Resources For Rabbis & Spiritual Leaders page. If you would like us to share your words, please email Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein.
Learn Where Your Food Comes From
Most people have some sense that food is central to Jewish life and Jewish tradition, but they’re far less aware that individual food choices are among the top anthropogenic drivers of climate change. Hazon has compiled these resources for you to make educated food choices.
Hazon Seal of Sustainability
The Hazon Seal of Sustainability is an annual program that provides guidance and support to advance sustainability-related education, action, and advocacy in your Jewish institution, organization, and community. Rooted in Jewish tradition, participation in the Hazon Seal program will, over time, make your community healthier and more sustainable, both Jewishly and environmentally!
Over the past 5 years, JOFEE Fellows and JOFEE educators around the world have been creating thoughtful curricula for engaging participants from young to old. In particular, check out the resources on Food and Climate or Environmental Justice.
For inspiration and reflections on our weekly parsha, be sure to check out the D’varim HaMakom blog – each week JOFEE Fellows reflect on how their environmental work relates to the weekly Torah portion. We recommend Light in the Dark, Blessing Family and the Earth, and Korach: Disruptive Visionary or Disgruntled Rabble-Rouser.
For more information about JOFEE or to find a JOFEE organization in your area, visit JOFEE.org.